UN force in Lebanon takes latest al-Qaeda threats seriously

Other News Materials 23 April 2008 19:57 (UTC +04:00)

The command of the United Nations Interim Forces (UNIFIL) command said Wednesday its was taking the new threats by the al-Qaeda terrorist network seriously.

"We take these threats seriously, as the security of our staff and personnel is very important. UNIFIL has already taken full security and safety measures, and our focus remains on our operations and the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701," UNIFIL spokeswoman Yasmina Bouziane said.

Bouziane was referring to new threats made by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda, that Lebanon will play a pivotal role in the terrorist network's fight against the "crusaders and Jews" - an apparent reference to Israel and the UNIFIL troops in south Lebanon.

"Security and law enforcement, including the safety of UN personnel and equipment in the regions where UNIFIL is deployed, are the responsibility of the Lebanese army," Bouziane said.

Lebanese security sources said UNIFIL patrols and observation points were on high alert. Tight security measures were also put in place around all UN bases in southern Lebanon.

Bouziane noted that UNIFIL, the Lebanese people and army have a common interest in preserving stability in South Lebanon and preventing violations of Resolution 1701 which ended 33 days of war between Israel and militants from Lebanon's Shiite Hezbollah movement in August 2006.

UNIFIL was established in Lebanon 30 years ago, after Israel's first invasion in 1978, but had little impact on events - having no mandate to prevent attacks on Israel from Lebanon, or vice versa.

But after the war between Israel and Hezbollah, the force received new orders and thousands of reinforcements under the Resolution 1701, which also stipulated the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area.